Yard House…a welcome ground to newbies and aficianados alike…

Yard House is a chain of ale houses across the country, and they are ever-growing in number.  During our travels, my wife and I have visited the establishment in Vegas and in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.  There really is nothing not to love about this place.  They serve food, which is always a good thing to have alongside your pint of ale, and the grub is actually pretty decent.  Of course, you’ll get a range of menu options depending on which site you visit and what region of the country you are in, but the two we’ve been through have had very decent offerings from apps all the way through to desserts.

On top of the food offerings, the menu does a good job of listing suggestions for which beers and beer styles to pair with your order, which is a good guide for the new and/or timid.  Hints and tips like this are always helpful, even to people who are well versed in the world of brew.  The staff that we have encountered has been helpful as well…chances are, if you sit at the bar you will get someone who knows his or her shit for their inventory.  Out at the tables, we had a waitress who did not have many answers but, to her credit, she found someone who did and delivered the answers eventually.  On a personal note, I recommend the sweet potato fries…they come with a cinnamon butter, and it’s just stupid good.  Trust me!

Now, on to the beer!

The taps are many, and they gather from the far reaches of the United States, as well as countries abroad.  Yard House does a decent job of having a broad selection of styles, and multiple options in each style.  Now, you are not going to find the super-rare or the local nano-brewery offerings from 3 states away, but compared to most chains (TGIFridays, Chili’s, etc), you are getting a pretty impressive spread of choices.  This is where it benefits those new to the world of craft the most, because the tap list will likely have some familiar faces mixed in with some new and intriguing names, and that is comforting.  It’s like “Here’s your old sweatshirt that you know and love, but before putting that on, why not try this new hoodie that is similar but, amazingly, so different.”  It’s an easier transition, and the staff will be able to point you in the right direction if you can describe what you like and/or look for in a beer.  As I said before, you aren’t going to find any “whales” sneaking around the tap lines, if you fancy yourself a beer snob of sorts, chances are you can find something here that will satisfy your palate, and it will serve as a great christening spot for your nearest and dearest “fizzy yellow drinker” friends.

Yard House establishments can currently be found in 10 U.S. states, and their website (http://www.yardhouse.com/default.aspx) is super user-friendly, so hop on and see what’s close to you.  It’s a decent place that I’m willing to bet has something to offer everyone.

“Their beers” include four styles, and they refer to them as “house ales.”  The beers are brewed for Yard House by the Firestone Walker Brewing Company, so any opinions about the beer quality and what-have-you are sent the way of Firestone, and not Yard House themselves.  Having visited a Yard House, of course I had to give their brews a taste, and therefore weigh in on them.  My humble opinions and thoughts on the house beers follow.

Yard House Amber Ale

Served in a pint glass, this beer pours with a light, airy head.  Decent bright-amber color, that was crystal clear and lightly bubbled.  Smell was nondescript, with little hints of malt, but not much else.  This gives the feeling of “middle of the road” so far.  The flavor was typical for the amber/red style, although a little bit lighter and more crisp.  Definitely would make for an easy switch on someone coming over from the darker offerings of Bud/Miller/Coors.  It was basically like Killian’s and Coors Light had a love-child (dirty little bastard he would be).  Consumable, but not overly enjoyable.  That being said, it completely accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is provide an offering for a possible transition beer or starter beer for those who are still a bit flavor shy.

Yard House Hefeweizen

Served in a pint glass (aahh, not my picture, I hijacked it!), I chose to go sans lemon.  The ever going argument of “to fruit” or “not to fruit” is one I don’t particularly weigh in on either way.  More often than not, I will try a certain brew both ways.  In some cases, brewers specifically want you to put a certain piece of fruit alongside their creation to bring forth the flavors they crafted the beer to have.  In those cases, let that slice sit on the glass edge with pride, as a nod of respect to the brewer’s hard work.  Decent pour, with a thick, dense head.  Unfiltered, giving it an opaque, pale gold color.  The smell was heavy on the spices, which seemed to be mainly of the coriander persuasion.  The flavor was just as heavy on the spice, combined with a light citrus undertone that is overpowered and unable to balance.  The spices in the flavor seemed like coriander and nutmeg.  Very full-bodied for a Hef, which was a pleasant surprise.  Again, this one is easy to drink, but not overly outstanding in any one area.  This will be a great slide into the pool for the Blue Moon (psst!…owned by Miller-Coors) drinkers out there.

Yard House Honey Blonde (pic unavailable for theft…err, borrow)

Served  in a pint glass, the beer had little to no head.  It appears a standard golden-yellow color, and the beer presents with signs of pretty high carbonation levels.  No notable aroma, and I dug my nose down into that one trying to sniff something out.  The taste had not a hint of actual honey, so I immediately considered litigation (I thought better of it).  The flavor, overall, was light, and bordered on sour, with some toasty malt characteristics.  It was a surprisingly smooth beer (remember the carbonation?), and easy to drink, but that doesn’t equate to “enjoyable to drink” by any means.  This one would make a good tag-team partner with the actual Buds and Coors beers, not the lights (or Lites, if you will).  The Bud/Coors is Marty Jannetty, and this Honey Blonde is a young Shawn Michaels (not yet a superstar, but you still know its way better than Jannetty).  Hurry up and tag in Michaels, for crying out loud, before poor Jannetty gets tossed through that barber shop window again.

Yard House Pale Ale

The last of the house beers, this ale was once again poured into a pint glass.  Decent head for a pale; thin but dense (enter “blonde model” joke here).  The smells were light, with bits of barley in the nose and only a slight hoppiness.  The taste was malted barley on the front of the tongue, and a sour undertone in the middle-to-rear of the tongue.  Again, only the slightest hints of hops in the flavor, and more of the peppery aspect of hops than the typical green and woodsy flavors that some people dislike.  The beer itself was extremely smooth, with very minimal aftertaste.  It wasn’t remarkable in the realms of the Pale Ale style, and could be easily interchanged with most middle of the road beers of this genre, but it once again has redeeming qualities to those just “window shopping” craft beer and its many styles.  Hops are something that scare a lot of people, and to dive in to hoppy beers can often be tragic, and the results irreversible.  Those scarred by trying a high IBU brew in their early days often react to the word “hops” or “IPA” the same way most men react to the movie “Fatal Attraction.”  Enter the Yard House version of a Pale, and you might be able to sway someone who otherwise would have been frightened by the Hop Monster.

So, in an overall opinion, I would recommend swinging by a Yard House if one happens to be near you, or along your path of travels at some point.  I wouldn’t MapQuest a four-hour road trip to find one, but a slight detour wouldn’t be objectionable.  I highly doubt you would be disappointed by the experience, as a whole, and you might just find a new favorite!


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